Religious formation should be at heart of Catholic schools – expert

Staff Reporter

Catholic schools are being urged to focus on the religious formation of students in a bid to promote their distinctive ethos. Dr Rik Van Nieuwenhove, lecturer in theology at Mary Immaculate College Limerick warned: “There is a temptation in an increasingly secularist society to identify Catholic schools in terms of values which are widely shared throughout society, such as social justice, inclusiveness and tolerance”.

“This merely results in a further dissolving of the identity of Catholic schools which ironically contributes to a less diverse educational landscape,” he told The Irish Catholic.

“Catholic education should not be primarily defined in terms of values. Values may be an essential part of Catholic education but they do not define it. Rather, Catholic education needs to be primarily understood in terms of fostering a sense of knowing and loving Christ amongst its students,” Dr Va Nieuwenhove said.

The former Trinity College Dublin lecturer called on the Irish bishops to employ quality control measures to ensure religious education was up to scratch in Catholic schools. “What we need now is the bishops to provide some sort of supervision of religious education teaching in Catholic secondary schools and to get a handle on what is actually happening on the ground,” he said.